Every day I get at least a dozen questions regarding some SEO issue or another.
But, none more than the intricacies of link building.
- Is link building important?
- How does natural link building work?
- What does link building do for my sites SEO success?
- Does it matter where my links come from and if they’re paid for?
- Are there different kinds of links and if so how do I know which ones to choose?
If you’ve done any research on SEO you’ll likely know that there are many moving parts, all closely connected.
With the success of one, dependent on the “thrive-ability” ..
(sometimes I make up words)
.. of another.
A digital ecosystem of sorts.
Often underestimated. Definitely misunderstood.
Today, however, I’m here to demystify the world of link building.
For your site to receive a lot of traffic… your business to establish authority… and steadily crawl to the top of Google SERPs..
.. you’ve gotta master the intricate art of link building.
Link building is an SEO process that combines various marketing practices.
It may require timely actions and pleasant persistence,
But – absolutely nothing about building an organic (naturally earned) link profile, is hard.
This guide follows the operational workflow that we use at Digital Lead for our own campaigns and for our clients.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- Top Link Types That You Should Utilise For Your Site
- Top 4 Content Types To Catapult Growth
RESEARCH DONE RIGHT
- The Best Research Tools To Use
- Information You Need to Know To Build A Successful Campaign
COLLECTING AND CONNECTING
- Link Prospecting
- Email Outreach
Amazing content unlocks amazing backlinks.
The secret is to fine tune the content that you produce so that you can reach the right people – those who will resonate with your content and ultimately link up to your site.
The key to achieving that is establishing Context.
So where do you start?
- Look into what link types will best work for your campaign objectives.
- Create great, quality content that are link magnets.
There are a lot of different types of links out there and each one has different requirements.
Before you begin with an email outreach campaign you first need to plan out what type of links you’re aiming to get.
The three most popular are:
- Guest Post Links
- Broken Links
- Round-Up Links
A premeditated strategy determines:
- the research methods you’ll use to find them
- the email templates you’ll use for outreach
- the content and framework that you’ll create to offer in exchange
.. all of which will vary greatly depending on the link type you choose.
Let’s explore each link a little further.
Guest Post Links
What are Guest Post Links?
- They are links that you get from websites that allow other companies, writers, or bloggers to post their content within the host website’s resource or blog pages.
What you need to know:
Most guest posting sites require you to submit (new/original) content that is closely related to the content that they typically publish.
For Example: A clothing website will only allow host guest posts about fashion, beauty or closely related topics.
- You will need to follow the content requirements that are outlined.
- Typically this can be found on a submissions requirement URL located under a “write for us” or “contact” page.
- Elements such as word count, writing style, and content topics are commonly specified requirements you’ll encounter.
- Most sites (especially popular ones with larger audiences) are strict when it comes to their “house styles” and accept only those that closely adhere to them.
- Be sure to scrutinize a sites listed requirements (prior to creating content) if your desired link is a guest post feature on a particular site.
- Always ensure that the content you submit is original, freshly crafted for their site.
- The guest posting sites will often allow you to include links that will direct its readers back toward your website. Most only allow 1-2 follow links to be included within the body of the post.
What are Broken Links?
- These are hyperlinked text on a web page or blog that when clicked, no longer redirect towards an active URL.
- You will come across many broken links that will not be valid for our purposes because the original websites that they’re linked to are no longer available. However, for sites that are active and do have legitimate broken links, your outreach will be an appreciated insight.
What you need to know:
- Most sites that have broken links don’t really know that those links are inactive. This is incredibly important as it’s a great opportunity to reach out, provide value to an influencer by way of helping them keep their site current and user-friendly.
- You can frame your own content as a relevant, easy option that they can use to immediately replace the non-active one. It’s often a no-brainer because they don’t want broken links kicking around, decreasing the perceived value of their site.
- The trick for acquiring broken links is to search for websites that feature content closely related to your own.
For Example: If you wanted to replace a link on a website about vintage cars – then your content must be contextually relevant to that topic.
Scanning sites with related topics to your own will ensure that when you do come across broken links you can act quick and use what’s already existing in your library.
Swift action will increase your likelihood of landing that link.
What are Roundup Links?
- Think: best of, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual content compilations.
Some examples of content roundups include:
- The Best New Tech Start-Ups of 2018
- 6 Chicago Co-working Cafes to visit this year
- This Weeks Top Aviation Articles
What you need to know:
- Getting included in a roundup post generally requires a good working relationship with the roundup writer or have a notable reputation in your industry, one that precedes a nod of expertise.
- One of the best ways to get roundup links is to create solid, quality content that people want to include in their industry, weekly, monthly, yearly “reviews”.
- High performing, viral content that generates a lot of attention online will always yield powerful linking results.
- Everyone wants to be included in a list of the best blogs/guides of the year. So, in order to earn those coveted content high fives then you must make sure that your content is inarguably top gun. 😉
Content is the key that unlocks and busts through the door that is white hat link building.
Good luck finding anyone who can logically argue that.
Unfortunately, many companies think that just by creating content that they’ll receive links automatically.
But, it doesn’t work like that.
Successful link builders don’t just create any old content.
.. They create pieces that are specifically made for link building purposes.
There are certain types of content that outperform all others when it comes to link building
Content creators adhere to particular frameworks that time and time again produce quality links as compared to the unpredictable results generated by your standard “blog post”.
Checklist / List Posts
What are Checklists/List Posts?
- List posts are content that features a concentrate of actionable information that will specifically help its readers achieve the desired goal.
What you need to know:
There are many types of high performing list posts styles, all of which generate amazing traffic and backlinks.
Some such posts include:
- Tip Posts – Ex. Tips on how to market your vintage clothing shop on Facebook.]
- Technique Posts – Ex. 7 techniques on how to decrease your store’s overhead cost
- Top/Best Pots – Ex. Top 13 clothing stores that you should visit
- Reason Posts – Ex. 6 Reasons why your clothing stores holiday promotion is failing
- Should Posts – Ex. 9 things you should know about clothing fabric dye
- Must/Need Posts – Ex. 11 vintage shops you need to follow on Instagram
- List posts are extremely effective because they offer bite-sized information that’s easy to read, understand and desirable to share. Making these types of content the perfect recipe for high-performance lead generators.
What are Infographics?
- These content gems feature factual data and bite-sized bits of info accompanied by visually engaging graphics, typically wrapped up in an eye-catching one-pager.
What you need to know:
- They’ve got to be visually appealing, informative and easy to digest.
- Influencers greatly appreciate these visually appealing one-pagers that they can share on social media or as a quick and easy blog post.
- A custom, creative expression of curated information, infographics generally share common characteristics:
- An objective or narrative
What are Epic Guides?
- Epic guides are monster content pieces that feature an overarching view of a specific topic.
What you need to know:
- These extended guides are an all-in-one resource for a given topic. Extremely effective as link generators, these content types offer interesting information that captures the attention of targeted, interested people.
- If done right, an epic guide will become a go-to reference source within your industry, not to mention they can act as the foundation for an entire content campaign.
- Link your other resources to it as a way to dive further into detail about aspects of a broader topic.
- An all-encompassing content strategy that allows you to offer a lot of relevant, specific, valuable content that supports a wide audience.
- Additionally, this strategy allows you to expand on your pillar content, without turning it into a novel.
- In essence, you provide a grouping of content for which interested audiences can choose how deep they’d like to explore a particular concept.
- A great framework for guest posting, roundup posts, as well as broken link strategies.
- The main challenge is the amount of detail that you need to include – the more comprehensive it is, the more effective it becomes.
RESEARCH DONE RIGHT
Efficiently scouring sites requires research tools.
At Digital Lead we use Ahrefs, Check My Links and Moz toolbar to help with our backlink research.
A common misconception many have about generating high-quality links is that you have to incorporate a lot of high powered keywords into your content.
And while they’re not entirely wrong, SEO keywords are but a small part of building links. Those that focus on utilizing them within the body of the content are generally using them all wrong.
When it comes to link building, keywords are best utilized in the research stage.
Keywords aside, there’s a whole host of other data that you should research and utilize.
Must-Have Research Tools
With an endless supply of tech-tools at your fingertips, it can be challenging to weed out those that waste your time from the tools that expedite the process.
Listed below are the tools we use in-house at Digital Lead for our link building campaigns.
What is SEMRush?
- SEMRush is one of the most widely used SEO / Keyword research platforms in the world. It’s an all-in-one digital marketing suite that features a number of online tools that are great for website link and keyword research.
Organic Research Tool
- See the keywords that your target website ranks in
- Discover new keywords to use for link prospecting research
- Observe position changes of domains
Backlink Research Tools
- Conduct a deep link analysis
- Understand referring domains’ authority
- Check backlinks’ types
Keyword Research Tools
- Find the right keywords to guide your link building campaigns
- Gather phrase matches and related keywords
- Get long-tail keywords
What is Ahrefs?
- Ahrefs.com is a widely used SEO, backlink, and keyword analysis platform. They are constantly improving their tools to provide customers with fresh links, indexes, and keyword data.
- Easily analyze your site’s backlinks
- Discover the backlinks that your competitors’ have
- Explore the most profitable keywords for both organic and paid searches
- Find out what content is viral across social media platforms
- Get insight into your competitors’ most shared content
- Find top-performing topics for your content pipeline
- Get up-to-date with keyword rankings
- Helps obtain relevant keyword ideas
- See live data of keyword volume and performance
- Analyze your website’s SEO elements
- Discover the SEO weaknesses of your website
- Get detailed reports about your site’s SEO performance
Information You Should Look For
So, now that you know what’s what when it comes to content research tools…
What exactly are you looking for?
An Important Note: you should never start a link building campaign without having conducted significant research. Without it you’ll have a tough time succeeding in achieving your desired target.
Especially since Google penalizes sites that connect with low-quality links. All of this can easily be avoided if you properly research the following information.
Page Rank or Page Authority
What’s the Page Authority of the site that you’ll be linked to?
.. Don’t know ..
The Page Authority of the websites that you get your links will impact the overall performance of your own content and by extension your results in search rankings.
So, yes… Page Authority matters!
Google uses Page Authority as one of their (many) criteria on whether they will raise or decrease a website’s pages in search rankings.
Because of links from web pages that rank high in SERPs transfer some of their SEO “juice” back to your content/website.
So basically, their authority increases your authority – credibility by association.
How do you look for this information?
Ahrefs’ URL research tool will reveal this number for you.
Similar to Page Authority, Domain Authority is the invisible SEO power that a website holds. This particular metric is measured by MOZ.
The notable difference between Page and Domain Authority is that DA is a website-wide measurement – hence “domain” authority.
So basically, links from a website such as Forbes – which boasts a very high (strong) DA – will have a powerful, positive impact on content and sites as opposed to a generic blog website.
Moz did coin the term and it can be measured with their toolbar extension, however, the same metric can also be uncovered through the use of Ahrefs URL research tool.
No external tools are required for this research element.
.. Literally, all you need is a bit of common sense.
Basically, you’re just determining the contextual relevance of the websites that you’re getting your links from.
As a rule of thumb, don’t acquire links from websites that don’t have a close relation to your own.
For example: If you’re linked up to a car review website that had a Page Authority of 80 and a Domain Authority of 100 … and your website is about vintage clothing, the search authorities at Google may question the relevancy and could choose to penalize both sites.
As I mentioned before, context is more important than content.
.. Always aim to have contextually relevant keywords and links in your content.
COLLECTING AND CONNECTING
If this is the first time you’re reading about the risks associated with black hat link building strategies… well, frankly that would be shocking.
By now it’s well known that the results generated from a white hat approach are far more effective for positively influencing results in search pages. And while it does require more effort, if long-term growth and organic traffic is the name of the game – then white hat is the way to go.
In order to succeed as a white hat link builder, you’ll have to familiarise yourself with the world of email outreach.
The main challenge people generally face during outreach is standing out amongst the noise and being considered and then chosen by the content managers, writers, and bloggers who are approached for hundreds of link requests each and every week.
Here’s how we do it..
How to Find Link Prospects
To start the process, first look for blogs, web pages, or resources that you want to get links from.
The first thing that you should do is to consider what type of links you’ll be chasing and what type of content you’ll provide in order to get those links.
Once that’s done, you can use Google Search Operators to look for websites, web pages or blogs that are ranking for the specific keywords that you’re ranking for as well.
How to use Google Search Operators:
- Simply add keywords, phrases and special characters into the Google search bar… search… and voila!
- Don’t forget the importance of contextual relevance. There will be A TON of search results and this process requires manual filtration to determine sites that will work – from the sites that could potentially penalize you.
Here are various search operators that you could use for your digital marketing campaigns:
- Ex: “SEO blogs”
- Placing words and phrases inside quotations forces Google to use exact-match filters. This will bring up any sites that rank highly for that exact phrase or keyword.
- Ex: SEO OR Search Engine Optimization
- Google search defaults to logical AND between terms. Specify “OR” for a logical OR (be sure to use ALL-CAPS).
- Ex: SEO | Search Engine Optimization
- The pipe (|) operator is similar to the OR operator.
- Ex: (SEO OR Search Engine Optimization) tools
- Use parentheses to group search operators and control the order in which Google executes them.
- Ex: SEO -prices
- Put the minus operator (-) in front of any term, including other operators to exclude that term from the search results.
- Ex: SEO “Company *”
- An asterisk * acts as a wild-card and will match on any word.
- Ex: SEO news 2016..2018
- Use the .. operator to match on any integer that you have placed inside the range of numbers
- Ex: SEO service prices $2000
- Search prices using currency symbols ($ £ etc..) You can combine ($) and (.) for exact prices, like $19.99
- Ex: 300 ft in cm
- Use “in” to convert between two equivalent units. This returns a special, Knowledge Card style result.
- Ex: intitle:”SEO vs PPC”
- Search only in the page’s title for a word or phrase. Use exact-match (quotes) for phrases.
- Ex: allintitle: tesla vs edison
- Search the page title for every individual term following “allintitle:”. Same as multiple intitle:’s.
- Ex: SEO inurl:2018
- Look for a word or phrase (in quotes) in the document URL. Can combine with other terms.
- Ex: allinurl: SEO PPC
- Search the URL for every individual term following “allinurl:”. Same as multiple inurl:’s.
intext: Ex: intext:”SEO vs PPC “
- Search for a word or phrase (in quotes), but only in the body/document text.
- Ex: allintext: SEO Google PPC
- Search the body text for every individual term following “allintext:”. Same as multiple intexts:’s.
- Ex: “SEO” filetype:pdf
- Match only a specific file type. Some examples include PDF, DOC, XLS, PPT, and TXT.
- Ex: related:wired.com
- Return sites that are related to a target domain. Only works for larger domains.
The goal is to find relevant websites that have a decent Page Rank & Domain Authority.
We advise that you look for sites with a minimum PR/DA of 10/20
Be prepared to search… a lot.
Using the Google search operators stated above with your companies keyword list, will generate hundreds of valid link prospects in no time.
You can also use Ahrefs and SEMRush for scouting link prospects.
Just pop in the URL of the sites you have already found and then Ahrefs or SEMRush will create a list of various websites that they’re already linked to.
The process at first is tedious and time-consuming however once you get the hang of it, like all things in life it becomes much easier.
At first, you may feel a little all over the place, running into similar links and filtering through A LOT of sites that are irrelevant. However, the diamonds in the rough will be revealed and the payoff will be worth it.
Okay, time for a quick recap – we’ve covered:
- The kinds of content frameworks that are proven to perform the best for link building
- How to research powerful content topics that those who can link to will actually want to share
- How to research who the best link prospects are
The last, but certainly not least important element of this process left to cover is actually emailing the people who will facilitate our link up.
Now that you’ve got a monstrous list of possible links, you’ll need to determine the best email address to use to connect.
Similarly to when we apply contextual relevance filters to our link prospecting research, manually “scraping” emails from websites is required… by a human – no bots allowed.
Fear not, fortunately, there exist a boatload of email scouting tools out there that can assist in manual work.
Some of these tools are paid resources but some are free – it’s best to look into all of the different providers, test them out and determine for yourself which ones deliver the best results.
Here are some of the email scouting tools that you can use:
Once this research has been conducted and you’ve filled in whatever document you’re using to organize your data with a list of links, their submission requirements, your content pitch, and the correct contact info… it’s time to write some emails.
Note: Our tracking docs is just one of the many wicked link building resources included in our Free Link Building course.
Outreach Email Templates
This part is essential to the success of your entire campaign and must be planned and intentionally executed. If you draft a self-centered, lackluster email or you’re not set up with a successful system, then you can kiss your link acquisition chances goodbye.
- If you do everything leading up to this part properly, you will have A LOT of emails stockpiled.
- However, just because you can find a lot of viable options now, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed that many links later.
- So, ensure you have a system in place to maximize your results.
You need to establish a relationship and earn trust, to get to a place where they will want to promote what you have to say on their site.
That being said, emails should be short and sweet and this system, albeit manual, can still be executed smoothly and systematically to ensure efficiency.
Things to consider:
- Always create different versions of the template.
- You’ll need to A/B test frequently so that you can optimize the templates.
- Make them as personalized as you can.
- Generic emails don’t fare well with content managers and editors.
- Balance authority with modesty
- Going in too strong will decrease your chances of landing those links, but you’ll also wanna show your industry chops so that they know – you know – what you’re talking about.
- In most cases, don’t go “all-in”.
- It’s been proven that you’ll have a better chance if you do a 2-step email process.
- 1st email should be the “greeting”, 2nd email should be the “pitch”.
Want our top performing email outreach templates?
GO FORTH AND CONQUER
Never let up on your link building campaign.
- Keep creating awesome content that your target audience and industry influencers will want to comment on and/or reference to.
- Continuously look for broken links and use them as the bridge to build solid relationships with industry peers and influencers.
- Always optimize your email templates and strive for steady improvement.
A proper link building campaign should be a perpetual machine that churns out opportunities for your business to grow digitally.
A winning link building campaign relies on two major components:
- Unique and interesting content
- Astute research and analytical deep dives
Higher rankings are a direct reflection of the number of quality links you curate.
Never be satisfied with just a hundred, or two hundred links.
A steady, systematic approach to generating a limitless supply of link potentials is possible, so long as you put in the work.
There are, after all, bountiful opportunities just waiting to be tapped into.
All you gotta do is get out there and find them.
FREE DIY Link Building Masterclass, join my 7 part course!
- Delivered right to your inbox
- Every stage is broken down into step by step actions
- Complete with:
- Tracking tools
- Email sequences
- Tutorials and so much more…